The NBA All-Star Weekend is a basketball extravaganza with player contests and an All-Star Game featuring the NBA's finest players. This season's All-Star event will be held in Los Angeles on February 13-15, 2004.

Here is Basketball U's lesson on NBA All-Star!

got milk? Rookie Challenge | RadioShack Shooting Stars |
989 Sports Skills Challenge | Foot Locker Three-Point Shootout |
Sprite Rising Stars Slam Dunk | NBA All-Star Game

got milk? Rookie Challenge
Friday, February 13 at 9 p.m. ET

Vince Carter
Vince Carter won All-Star Slam Dunk honours in 2000.
Nathaniel S. Butler
NBAE/Getty Images

The Rookie Challenge matches the league's top rookies against the best second-year players, or sophomores. There are nine players per team.

The participants may vary in age. For instance, 2002 rookie team selection Tony Parker of the Spurs was 19 years of age and his Rookie Challenge teammate, Zeljko Rebraca of the Pistons, is 10 years his senior.

Rookie Challenge participants may face their regular NBA teammates on the opposing Challenge team. In 2001, Lamar Odom played against his rookie Clippers teammates, Quentin Richardson and Darius Miles.

The Rookie Challenge also brings together former college teammates now in the NBA. Former Duke teammates Carlos Boozer (Cleveland) and Jay Williams (Chicago) both were named to the 2003 rookie team.

One of the best rookie classes ever took part in the 1997 Rookie Challenge, as future All-Stars Allen Iverson, Stephon Marbury, Ray Allen, Kobe Bryant, Antoine Walker, Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Victoria, BC native Steve Nash participated.

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RadioShack Shooting Stars
NBA All-Star Saturday Night presented by America Online, February 14 at 8 p.m. ET

The first-ever RadioShack Shooting Stars competition will feature four teams of an NBA player, WNBA player and NBA legend in a timed one-round shooting event.

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989 Sports Skills Challenge
NBA All-Star Saturday Night presented by America Online, February 14 at 8 p.m. ET

The 989 Sports Skills Challenge will highlight four NBA players running through a timed obstacle course that will include dribbling, passing and shooting stations. This is the second year this competition will be held. Nets guard Jason Kidd won the inaugural 989 Sports Skills Challenge in 2003.

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Foot Locker Three-Point Shootout
NBA All-Star Saturday Night presented by America Online, February 14 at 8 p.m. ET

The Foot Locker Three-Point Shootout will feature six of the NBA's top long-distance shooters in a two-round competition. Last year, Kings forward Peja Stojakovic was crowned the Three-Point Shootout champion for the second consecutive year.

The Shootout has seen many repeat champions. Craig Hodges, formerly of the Bulls, competed in eight straight contests, winning three in a row between 1990-92. Jeff Hornacek, formerly of the Jazz, shook off a last-place finish in the 1992 Shootout to win in 1998 and 2000.

Surprisingly, Indiana's Reggie Miller, the NBA's career leader in three-point field goals made, has never won the Shootout, finishing second in 1990 and 1995.

The Shootout competitors each have a style of their own.

Jump Shooters: Jump shooters use their legs to get the proper lift on their shot. These players expend a tremendous amount of energy during the contest. After missing a couple of shots, these shooters may adjust the height of their jump in an attempt to get their shooting stroke back, though this rarely works. As the contest rounds advance and more shots are taken, jump shooters are often short with their shots and hit the front of the rim, a sure sign of fatigue.

Set Shooters: These shooters remain on the ground when shooting and do not rely on their legs like jump shooters. Often these competitors, like former Celtics star Larry Bird, do very well.

Specialists: During NBA games, these players are three-point specialists used primarily to shoot outside shots. Specialists, like Steve Kerr, have made a career out of their ability to drain the three.

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Sprite Rising Stars Slam Dunk
NBA All-Star Saturday Night presented by America Online, February 14 at 8 p.m. ET

The Sprite Rising Stars Slam Dunk will showcase four of the league's youngest high-flyers in a two-round competition. The competition will be open to NBA players who are currently playing in their first three years in the league. Last year, Warriors guard Jason Richardson defended his title and won the 2003 Sprite Rising Stars Slam Dunk competition for the second consecutive year.

Traditionally, the Slam Dunk contest has been a showcase for some of the NBA's most creative and athletic players, and biggest stars. In 1985, the event featured three of the top 50 players of all time in Julius Erving, Clyde Drexler and Michael Jordan.

For some participants, like former Heat guard Harold Minor, the Slam Dunk contest remains the pinnacle of their basketball careers. Minor, who competed twice, won both contests. Like Minor, the Sonics' Brent Barry, along with Kobe Bryant and Vince Carter, each won the only dunk contest they entered.

Each slam-dunker has a distinctive flair and style they use to score points with both the judges and the crowd.

Steve Nash
In 2002, Steve Nash became the first Canadian to be selected as an NBA All-Star.
Glenn James
NBAE/Getty Images

Small Guys: Small guys are players like the 5-7 Spud Webb, formerly of the Hawks, who are short but can jump very high. Their elevation and hang time give the illusion that they truly are flying.

Players with Gimmicks: These players, like Cedric Ceballos, use props such as a blindfold to dunk without looking.

Power Dunkers: Power dunkers like to use their strength to throw the ball through the rim with violent force. Orlando's Tracy McGrady is a power dunker much like Dominique Wilkins, formerly of the Hawks, before him.

Gliders: These players attempt to show their ability to glide to the basket by jumping from the foul line to dunk. This first was popularized by Julius Erving, formerly of the Sixers, and copied in later competitions.

Creative Dunkers: Creative dunkers use their leaping ability to perform tricks in the air, double-pumping the ball, putting the ball between their legs, bouncing the ball off the court or backboard to themselves for alley-oops, twisting 360 degrees or dunking two balls at once. The Raptors' Vince Carter may be the league's most creative dunker, often deciding in the air what he wants to do with the ball.

The Family Connection: Tracy McGrady bounced the ball to his cousin, Vince Carter, to put through his legs in the 2000 Slam Dunk contest. Perhaps dunking runs in the family brothers Gerald and Dominique Wilkins both competed in the 1986 event.

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NBA All-Star Game
Sunday, February 15 at 8 p.m. ET

How Players are Selected
Fans determine which players form the starting lineups at the NBA All-Star Game by taking part in All-Star balloting. Each voter picks two guards, two forwards and one centre in each conference and the top five vote-getters for each position in each conference are named the All-Star starters.

All 29 NBA head coaches vote for the remaining members of the All-Star teams in their respective conferences, though they are not permitted to vote for players from their own teams. The coaches vote for seven players two guards, two forwards, a centre and two players regardless of position.

Should any player be unable to participate in the All-Star Game due to injury, NBA Commissioner David Stern selects a replacement. This happened in 2001, as centre Antonio Davis was named to replace the injured Theo Ratliff.

With the abundance of talent in the NBA, it is inevitable that some players, though deserving, may not be selected for the All-Star team. In 2001, Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki was named to the All-NBA third team, an honour bestowed by writers and broadcasters, but was not an All-Star. Nowitzki received his All-Star recognition in 2002, as he was selected as a Western Conference reserve in the All-Star Game.

All-Star Coaching
Head coaches for the East and West All-Star teams are determined based on their teams having the best winning percentage in their respective conferences through games played by a particular date, excluding the previous year's All-Star coaches.

All-Star coaches put the players through a light practice the day before the game. During the contest, coaches do not run a lot of set plays. Since the players are the best in the world, the team should be competitive no matter which players are on the court. The coaches aim to play every player a certain amount of minutes, then go with the players that are playing the best in the last few minutes if it is a close game.

Style of Play
The All-Star Game is often a guard-oriented affair as the guards set the tempo of the game. In 2001, the Eastern Conference All-Stars were down 21 points with only nine minutes remaining in the game, but came back and won with a small, quick lineup led by Stephon Marbury and All-Star Game MVP Allen Iverson.

All players want to win, and to be chosen as the All-Star Game MVP solidifies a player's stature as the best of the best, at least for one day.

NBA All-Star Game History

Hometown Heroes: 1972 was a memorable All-Star Game for Jerry West. Playing in front of his hometown crowd in L.A., he made a 20-foot jump shot to win both the game and MVP honours. Michael Jordan won All-Star MVP in Chicago in 1988 by scoring 16 of his 40 points in the final 5:51 of the fourth quarter.

Rookie MVPs Come in Threes: 43 first-year players have played in the All-Star Game and Houston's Yao Ming was the 16th rookie to start for his conference. Yao's rookie vote total (1,286,324) is second most all-time, trailing only Grant Hill in 1994-95 (1,289,585 votes). Hill was the first rookie ever to lead fan balloting.

The most rookies to appear in one All-Star Game is three and it has happened three times: 1982 (Isiah Thomas, Kelly Tripucka and Buck Williams), 1980 (Magic Johnson, Bill Cartwright and Larry Bird) and 1951 (Bob Cousy, Larry Foust and Paul Arizin).

Three rookies were voted game MVP in consecutive years: 1959 (Elgin Baylor, co-MVP with Bob Pettit), 1960 (Wilt Chamberlain) and 1961 (Jerry West). Chamberlain scored 23 points and had 25 rebounds in his only MVP performance. In 1962, he set an All-Star Game record with 42 points, but Pettit was chosen MVP.

In 1977, Julius Erving won MVP honours in his first NBA All-Star Game, scoring 30 points and grabbing 12 rebounds (he had played in five ABA All-Star Games prior to this). Erving and Pettit are the only two players to win MVP while part of the losing team.

Tim Duncan
Tim Duncan is part of NBA All-Star's international contingent.
D. Clarke Evans
NBAE/Getty Images

All-Star, Regular Season and NBA Finals MVP: Willis Reed won the All-Star, regular season and NBA Finals MVP awards in 1970. Michael Jordan repeated this feat in 1996. Jordan was a three-time All-Star Game MVP (1988, 1996 and 1998). In addition to this triple-MVP feat, Jordan notched an All-Star triple-double in 1997 with 14 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists.

MVP Change: In the 1954 All-Star Game, the originally named MVP did not receive the award. Near the end of regulation, a vote was taken with Jim Pollard as the choice. However, when the game was forced into overtime, Bob Cousy scored 10 points in five minutes. A second vote was demanded and Cousy was named MVP.

Four Players and a Coach: Only three teams have had a coach and four players on a conference All-Star team: the 1961-62 Lakers, the 1961-62 Celtics and the 1982-83 Sixers. Of these three teams, the 1982-83 Sixers and the 1961-62 Celtics won the NBA Championship. The 1961-62 Celtics defeated the Lakers (with four All-Star players and an All-Star coach) in a hard-fought seven-game series.

All-Star Player/Coach: Last year, Isiah Thomas who had 12 All-Star selections as a player became the 16th former player to coach in an All-Star Game. Before Thomas, the last to do so was Larry Bird who also had 12 All-Star selections as a player in 1998.

Hard Nosed, Gritty Players: While the All-Star Game often showcases the NBA's most creative offensive players, there also is a place for some of the league's hardest workers and rugged defenders. The Eastern Conference has had a number of forwards and centres such as Dale Davis, Brad Miller, Charles Oakley and Antonio Davis who have made the All-Star team based on their strong rebounding and team play. Another such player Detroit's Ben Wallace became the first un-drafted player to start an All-Star Game since Moses Malone in 1979.

Sixth Men: Many "sixth men" have made All-Star teams. In fact, Kobe Bryant, the youngest All-Star ever at 19, started for the Western Conference in 1998 despite coming off the bench for the Lakers during that season. Players who have come off the bench for both their regular team and the All-Star team include Detlef Schrempf, Ricky Pierce, Kevin McHale and John Havlicek. Dennis Rodman and Bobby Jones were sixth men who made All-Star teams based on their defensive prowess rather than offensive firepower.

Long Shots: These players make shots from long distance. In 1957, Bill Sharman attempted a full-court pass to Bob Cousy that landed in the basket, rather than Cousy's hands. This shot measured 70 feet, the longest in All-Star Game history.

In 1978, Randy Smith made a 30-foot buzzer-beater at the end of the first quarter and a 40-foot shot at the end of the second quarter. Smith scored 27 points, winning MVP honours.

International Contingent: In 2002 and 2003, five international players were selected for the All-Star Game, including Dirk Nowitzki (Germany), Tim Duncan (U.S. Virgin Islands) and Steve Nash (Canada).

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